US7253343B2 - AXMI-003, a delta-endotoxin gene and methods for its use - Google Patents

AXMI-003, a delta-endotoxin gene and methods for its use Download PDF

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US7253343B2
US7253343B2 US10/926,819 US92681904A US7253343B2 US 7253343 B2 US7253343 B2 US 7253343B2 US 92681904 A US92681904 A US 92681904A US 7253343 B2 US7253343 B2 US 7253343B2
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nucleotide sequence
seq id
plant
sequence
amino acid
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Nadine Carozzi
Tracy Hargiss
Michael G. Koziel
Nicholas B. Duck
Brian Carr
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BASF Agricultural Solutions Seed US LLC
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    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C07ORGANIC CHEMISTRY
    • C07HSUGARS; DERIVATIVES THEREOF; NUCLEOSIDES; NUCLEOTIDES; NUCLEIC ACIDS
    • C07H21/00Compounds containing two or more mononucleotide units having separate phosphate or polyphosphate groups linked by saccharide radicals of nucleoside groups, e.g. nucleic acids
    • C07H21/04Compounds containing two or more mononucleotide units having separate phosphate or polyphosphate groups linked by saccharide radicals of nucleoside groups, e.g. nucleic acids with deoxyribosyl as saccharide radical
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C07ORGANIC CHEMISTRY
    • C07KPEPTIDES
    • C07K14/00Peptides having more than 20 amino acids; Gastrins; Somatostatins; Melanotropins; Derivatives thereof
    • C07K14/195Peptides having more than 20 amino acids; Gastrins; Somatostatins; Melanotropins; Derivatives thereof from bacteria
    • C07K14/32Peptides having more than 20 amino acids; Gastrins; Somatostatins; Melanotropins; Derivatives thereof from bacteria from Bacillus (G)
    • C07K14/325Bacillus thuringiensis crystal protein (delta-endotoxin)

Abstract

Compositions and methods for conferring pesticidal activity to bacteria, plants, plant cells, tissues and seeds are provided. Compositions comprising a coding sequence for a delta-endotoxin polypeptide are provided. The coding sequences can be used in DNA constructs or expression cassettes for transformation and expression in plants and bacteria. Compositions also comprise transformed bacteria, plants, plant cells, tissues, and seeds. In particular, isolated delta-endotoxin nucleic acid molecules are provided. Additionally, amino acid sequences corresponding to the polynucleotides are encompassed. In particular, the present invention provides for isolated nucleic acid molecules comprising nucleotide sequences encoding the amino acid sequence shown in SEQ ID NO:2 or 4, or the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO:1 or 3, as well as variants thereof.

Description

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/498,518, filed Aug. 28, 2003, the contents of which are hereby incorporated in their entirety by reference herein.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to the field of molecular biology. Provided are novel genes that encode pesticidal proteins. These proteins and the nucleic acid sequences that encode them are useful in preparing pesticidal formulations and in the production of transgenic pest-resistant plants.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Bacillus thuringiensis is a Gram-positive spore forming soil bacterium characterized by its ability to produce crystalline inclusions that are specifically toxic to certain orders and species of insects, but are harmless to plants and other non-targeted organisms. For this reason, compositions including Bacillus thuringiensis strains or their insecticidal proteins can be used as environmentally-acceptable insecticides to control agricultural insect pests or insect vectors for a variety of human or animal diseases.

Crystal (Cry) proteins (delta-endotoxins) from Bacillus thuringiensis have potent insecticidal activity against predominantly Lepidopteran, Dipteran, and Coleopteran larvae. These proteins also have shown activity against Hymenoptera, Homoptera, Phthiraptera, Mallophaga, and Acari pest orders, as well as other invertebrate orders such as Nemathelminthes, Platyhelminthes, and Sarcomastigorphora (Feitelson (1993) The Bacillus Thuringiensis family tree. In Advanced Engineered Pesticides. Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, N.Y.) These proteins were originally classified as CryI to CryV based primarily on their insecticidal activity. The major classes were Lepidoptera-specific (I), Lepidoptera- and Diptera-specific (II), Coleoptera-specific (III), Diptera-specific (IV), and nematode-specific (V) and (VI). The proteins were further classified into subfamilies; more highly related proteins within each family were assigned divisional letters such as Cry1A, Cry1B, Cry1C, etc. Even more closely related proteins within each division were given names such as Cry1C1, Cry1C2, etc.

A new nomenclature was recently described for the Cry genes based upon amino acid sequence homology rather than insect target specificity (Crickmore et al. (1998) Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 62:807-813). In the new classification, each toxin is assigned a unique name incorporating a primary rank (an Arabic number), a secondary rank (an uppercase letter), a tertiary rank (a lowercase letter), and a quaternary rank (another Arabic number). In the new classification, Roman numerals have been exchanged for Arabic numerals in the primary rank.

The crystal protein does not exhibit insecticidal activity until it has been ingested and solubilized in the insect midgut. The ingested protoxin is hydrolyzed by proteases in the insect digestive tract to an active toxic molecule. (Höfte and Whiteley (1989) Microbiol. Rev. 53:242-255). This toxin binds to apical brush border receptors in the midgut of the target larvae and inserts into the apical membrane creating ion channels or pores, resulting in larval death.

Delta-endotoxins generally have five conserved sequence domains, and three conserved structural domains (see, for example, de Maagd et al. (2001) Trends Genetics 17:193-199). The first conserved structural domain consists of seven alpha helices and is involved in membrane insertion and pore formation. Domain II consists of three beta-sheets arranged in a Greek key configuration, and domain III consists of two antiparallel beta-sheets in ‘jelly-roll’ formation (de Maagd et al., 2001, supra). Domains II and III are involved in receptor recognition and binding, and are therefore considered determinants of toxin specificity.

Because of the devastation that insects can confer there is a continual need to discover new forms of Bacillus thuringiensis delta-endotoxins.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

Compositions and methods for conferring pesticide resistance to bacteria, plants, plant cells, tissues and seeds are provided. Compositions include nucleic acid molecules encoding sequences for delta-endotoxin polypeptides, vectors comprising those nucleic acid molecules, and host cells comprising the vectors. Compositions also include the isolated or recombinant polypeptide sequences of the endotoxin, and antibodies to those polypeptides. The nucleotide sequences can be used in DNA constructs or expression cassettes for transformation and expression in organisms, including microorganisms and plants. The nucleotide or amino acid sequences may be synthetic sequences that have been designed for expression in an organism including, but not limited to, a microorganism or a plant. Compositions also comprise transformed bacteria, plants, plant cells, tissues, and seeds.

In particular, isolated nucleic acid molecules corresponding to delta-endotoxin nucleic acid sequences are provided. Additionally, amino acid sequences corresponding to the polynucleotides are encompassed. In particular, the present invention provides for isolated nucleic acid molecules comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding the amino acid sequence shown in SEQ ID NO:2 or 4, or the nucleotide sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO:1 or 3, as well as variants and fragments thereof.

Methods are provided for producing the polypeptides of the invention, and for using those polypeptides for controlling or killing a Lepidopteran or Coleopteran pest.

The compositions and methods of the invention are useful for the production of organisms with pesticide resistance, specifically bacteria and plants. These organisms and compositions derived from them are desirable for agricultural purposes. The compositions of the invention are also useful for generating altered or improved delta-endotoxin proteins that have pesticidal activity, or for detecting the presence of delta-endotoxin proteins or nucleic acids in products or organisms.

DESCRIPTION OF FIGURES

FIGS. 1A-1D show an alignment of AXMI-003 (SEQ ID NO:2) with cry1Aa (SEQ ID NO:5), cry1Ab (SEQ ID NO:6), cry1Ac (SEQ ID NO:7), cry1Ba (SEQ ID NO:8), cry1Ca (SEQ ID NO:9), cry1Fa (SEQ ID NO:10), cry1Ia (SEQ ID NO:11), cry2Ab (SEQ ID NO:12), cry3Aa1 (SEQ ID NO:13), cry7Aa (SEQ ID NO:14), cry8Aa (SEQ ID NO:15), and cry10Aa (SEQ ID NO:16). Toxins having C-terminal non-toxic domains were artificially truncated as shown. The alignment shows the most highly conserved amino acid residues marked with an asterisk (*), and highly conserved amino acid residues marked with a colon (:). Conserved group 1 is found from about amino acid residue 181 to about 202 of SEQ ID NO:2. Conserved group 2 is found from about amino acid residue 254 to about 296 of SEQ ID NO:2. Conserved group 3 is found from about amino acid residue 491 to about 536 of SEQ ID NO:2. Conserved group 4 is found from about amino acid residue 557 to about 567 of SEQ ID NO:2. Conserved group 5 is found from about amino acid residue 633 to about 643 of SEQ ID NO:2.

FIGS. 2A-2D show an alignment of AXMI-003 (SEQ ID NO:2) with cry1Ie1 (SEQ ID NO:17), cry1Ia (SEQ ID NO:11), cry1Ia1 (SEQ ID NO:18), cry1Ia2 (SEQ ID NO:19), cry1Ia3 (SEQ ID NO:20), cry1Ia4 (SEQ ID NO:21), cry1Ia5 (SEQ ID NO:22), cry1Ia 7 (SEQ ID NO:23), cry1Ia8 (SEQ ID NO:24), cry1Ib (SEQ ID NO:25), cry1Ib1 (SEQ ID NO:26), cry1Ic (SEQ ID NO:27), cry1Ic1 (SEQ ID NO:28), cry1Ic2 (SEQ ID NO:29), cry1Id (SEQ ID NO:30), and cry1Id1 (SEQ ID NO:31). The alignment shows the most highly conserved amino acid residues marked with an asterisk (*), and highly conserved amino acid residues marked with a colon (:).

FIGS. 2A and B show an alignment of AXMI-003 (SEQ ID NO:2) with cry1Ie1 (SEQ ID NO:17), cry1Ia (SEQ ID NO:11), cry1Ia1 (SEQ ID NO:18), cry1Ia2 (SEQ ID NO:19), cry1Ia3 (SEQ ID NO:20), cry1Ia4 (SEQ ID NO:21), cry1Ia5 (SEQ ID NO:22), cry1Ia7 (SEQ ID NO:23), cry1Ia8 (SEQ ID NO:24), cry1Ib (SEQ ID NO:25), cry1Ib1 (SEQ ID NO:26), cry1Ic (SEQ ID NO:27), cry1Ic1 (SEQ ID NO:28), cry1Ic2 (SEQ ID NO:29), cry1Id (SEQ ID NO:30), and cry1Id1 (SEQ ID NO:31). The alignment shows the most highly conserved amino acid residues highlighted in black, and highly conserved amino acid residues highlighted in gray.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention is drawn to compositions and methods for regulating pest resistance in organisms, particularly plants or plant cells. The methods involve transforming organisms with a nucleotide sequence encoding a delta-endotoxin protein of the invention. In particular, the nucleotide sequences of the invention are useful for preparing plants and microorganisms that possess pesticidal activity. Thus, transformed bacteria, plants, plant cells, plant tissues and seeds are provided. Compositions are delta-endotoxin nucleic acids and proteins of Bacillus thuringiensis. The sequences find use in the construction of expression vectors for subsequent transformation into organisms of interest, as probes for the isolation of other delta-endotoxin genes, and for the generation of altered pesticidal proteins by methods known in the art, such as domain swapping or DNA shuffling. The proteins find use in controlling or killing Lepidopteran or Coleopteran pest populations and for producing compositions with pesticidal activity.

Definitions

By “delta-endotoxin” is intended a toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis that has toxic activity against one or more pests, including, but not limited to, members of the Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Coleoptera orders. In some cases, delta-endotoxin proteins have been isolated from other organisms, including Clostridium bifermentans and Paenibacillus popilliae. Delta-endotoxin proteins include amino acid sequences deduced from the full-length nucleotide sequences disclosed herein, and amino acid sequences that are shorter than the full-length sequences, either due to the use of an alternate downstream start site, or due to processing that produces a shorter protein having pesticidal activity. Processing may occur in the organism the protein is expressed in, or in the pest after ingestion of the protein. Delta-endotoxins include proteins identified as cry1 through cry43, cyt1 and cyt2, and Cyt-like toxin. There are currently over 250 known species of delta-endotoxins with a wide range of specificities and toxicities. For an expansive list see Crickmore et al. (1998), Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 62:807-813, and for regular updates see Crickmore et al. (2003) “Bacillus thuringiensis toxin nomenclature,” at www.biols.susx.ac.uk/Home/Neil_Crickmore/Bt/index.

Bacterial genes, such as the AXMI-003 gene of this invention, quite often possess multiple methionine initiation codons in proximity to the start of the open reading frame. Often, translation initiation at one or more of these start codons will lead to generation of a functional protein. These start codons can include ATG codons. However, bacteria such as Bacillus sp. also recognize the codon GTG as a start codon, and proteins that initiate translation at GTG codons contain a methionine at the first amino acid. Furthermore, it is not often determined a priori which of these codons are used naturally in the bacterium. Thus, it is understood that use of one of the alternate methionine codons may also lead to generation of delta-endotoxin proteins that encode pesticidal activity. For example, an alternate start site for a delta-endotoxin protein of the invention is at base pair 22 of SEQ ID NO:1. Translation from this alternate start site results in the amino acid sequence found in SEQ ID NO:4. These delta-endotoxin proteins are encompassed in the present invention and may be used in the methods of the present invention.

By “plant cell” is intended all known forms of plant, including undifferentiated tissue (e.g. callus), suspension culture cells, protoplasts, leaf cells, root cells, phloem cells, plant seeds, pollen, propagules, embryos and the like. By “plant expression cassette” is intended a DNA construct that is capable of resulting in the expression of a protein from an open reading frame in a plant cell. Typically these contain a promoter and a coding sequence. Often, such constructs will also contain a 3′ untranslated region. Such constructs may contain a ‘signal sequence’ or ‘leader sequence’ to facilitate co-translational or post-translational transport of the peptide to certain intracellular structures such as the chloroplast (or other plastid), endoplasmic reticulum, or Golgi apparatus.

By “signal sequence” is intended a sequence that is known or suspected to result in cotranslational or post-translational peptide transport across the cell membrane. In eukaryotes, this typically involves secretion into the Golgi apparatus, with some resulting glycosylation. By “leader sequence” is intended any sequence that when translated, results in an amino acid sequence sufficient to trigger co-translational transport of the peptide chain to a sub-cellular organelle. Thus, this includes leader sequences targeting transport and/or glycosylation by passage into the endoplasmic reticulum, passage to vacuoles, plastids including chloroplasts, mitochondria, and the like.

By “plant transformation vector” is intended a DNA molecule that is necessary for efficient transformation of a plant cell. Such a molecule may consist of one or more plant expression cassettes, and may be organized into more than one ‘vector’ DNA molecule. For example, binary vectors are plant transformation vectors that utilize two non-contiguous DNA vectors to encode all requisite cis- and trans-acting functions for transformation of plant cells (Hellens and Mullineaux (2000) Trends in Plant Science 5:446-451). “Vector” refers to a nucleic acid construct designed for transfer between different host cells. “Expression vector” refers to a vector that has the ability to incorporate, integrate and express heterologous DNA sequences or fragments in a foreign cell.

“Transgenic plants” or “transformed plants” or “stably transformed plants or cells or tissues” refers to plants that have incorporated or integrated exogenous nucleic acid sequences or DNA fragments into the plant cell. These nucleic acid sequences include those that are exogenous, or not present in the untransformed plant cell, as well as those that may be endogenous, or present in the untransformed plant cell. “Heterologous” generally refers to the nucleic acid sequences that are not endogenous to the cell or part of the native genome in which they are present, and have been added to the cell by infection, transfection, microinjection, electroporation, microprojection, or the like.

“Promoter” refers to a nucleic acid sequence that functions to direct transcription of a downstream coding sequence. The promoter together with other transcriptional and translational regulatory nucleic acid sequences (also termed “control sequences”) are necessary for the expression of a DNA sequence of interest.

Provided herein are novel isolated nucleotide sequences that confer pesticidal activity. Also provided are the amino acid sequences of the delta-endotoxin proteins. The protein resulting from translation of this gene allows cells to control or kill pests that ingest it.

An “isolated” or “purified” nucleic acid molecule or protein, or biologically active portion thereof, is substantially free of other cellular material, or culture medium when produced by recombinant techniques, or substantially free of chemical precursors or other chemicals when chemically synthesized. Preferably, an “isolated” nucleic acid is free of sequences (preferably protein encoding sequences) that naturally flank the nucleic acid (i.e., sequences located at the 5′ and 3′ ends of the nucleic acid) in the genomic DNA of the organism from which the nucleic acid is derived. For purposes of the invention, “isolated” when used to refer to nucleic acid molecules excludes isolated chromosomes. For example, in various embodiments, the isolated delta-endotoxin encoding nucleic acid molecule can contain less than about 5 kb, 4 kb, 3 kb, 2 kb, 1 kb, 0.5 kb, or 0.1 kb of nucleotide sequences that naturally flank the nucleic acid molecule in genomic DNA of the cell from which the nucleic acid is derived. A delta-endotoxin protein that is substantially free of cellular material includes preparations of protein having less than about 30%, 20%, 10%, or 5% (by dry weight) of non-delta-endotoxin protein (also referred to herein as a “contaminating protein”). Various aspects of the invention are described in further detail in the following subsections.

Isolated Nucleic Acid Molecules, and Variants and Fragments Thereof

One aspect of the invention pertains to isolated nucleic acid molecules comprising nucleotide sequences encoding delta-endotoxin proteins and polypeptides or biologically active portions thereof, as well as nucleic acid molecules sufficient for use as hybridization probes to identify delta-endotoxin encoding nucleic acids. As used herein, the term “nucleic acid molecule” is intended to include DNA molecules (e.g., cDNA or genomic DNA) and RNA molecules (e.g., mRNA) and analogs of the DNA or RNA generated using nucleotide analogs. The nucleic acid molecule can be single-stranded or double-stranded, but preferably is double-stranded DNA.

Nucleotide sequences encoding the proteins of the present invention include the sequences set forth in SEQ ID NOS:1 and 3, and complements thereof. By “complement” is intended a nucleotide sequence that is sufficiently complementary to a given nucleotide sequence such that it can hybridize to the given nucleotide sequence to thereby form a stable duplex. The corresponding amino acid sequences for the delta-endotoxin proteins encoded by these nucleotide sequences are set forth in SEQ ID NOS:2 and 4.

Nucleic acid molecules that are fragments of these delta-endotoxin encoding nucleotide sequences are also encompassed by the present invention. By “fragment” is intended a portion of the nucleotide sequence encoding a delta-endotoxin protein. A fragment of a nucleotide sequence may encode a biologically active portion of a delta-endotoxin protein, or it may be a fragment that can be used as a hybridization probe or PCR primer using methods disclosed below. Nucleic acid molecules that are fragments of a delta-endotoxin nucleotide sequence comprise at least about 15, 20, 50, 75, 100, 200, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650, 700, 750, 800, 850, 900, 950, 1000, 1050, 1100, 1150, 1200, 1250, 1300, 1350, 1400, 1450, 1500, 1550, 1600, 1650, 1700, 1750, 1800, 1850, 1900, 1950, 2000, 2050, 2100, 2150 nucleotides, or up to the number of nucleotides present in a full-length delta-endotoxin encoding nucleotide sequence disclosed herein (for example, 2157 nucleotides for SEQ ID NO:1 and 2136 for SEQ ID NO:3) depending upon the intended use. Fragments of the nucleotide sequences of the present invention will encode protein fragments that retain the biological activity of the delta-endotoxin protein and, hence, retain pesticidal activity. By “retains activity” is intended that the fragment will have at least about 30%, preferably at least about 50%, more preferably at least about 70%, even more preferably at least about 80% of the pesticidal activity of the delta-endotoxin protein. Methods for measuring pesticidal activity are well known in the art. See, for example, Czapla and Lang (1990) J. Econ. Entomol. 83:2480-2485; Andrews et al. (1988) Biochem. J. 252:199-206; Marrone et al. (1985) J. of Economic Entomology 78:290-293; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,743,477, all of which are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety.

A fragment of a delta-endotoxin encoding nucleotide sequence that encodes a biologically active portion of a protein of the invention will encode at least about 15, 25, 30, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650, or 700 contiguous amino acids, or up to the total number of amino acids present in a full-length delta-endotoxin protein of the invention (for example, 719 amino acids for SEQ ID NO:2, and 712 amino acids for SEQ ID NO:4).

Preferred delta-endotoxin proteins of the present invention are encoded by a nucleotide sequence sufficiently identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:1 or 3. By “sufficiently identical” is intended an amino acid or nucleotide sequence that has at least about 60% or 65% sequence identity, preferably about 70% or 75% sequence identity, more preferably about 80% or 85% sequence identity, most preferably about 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98% or 99% sequence identity compared to a reference sequence using one of the alignment programs described herein using standard parameters. One of skill in the art will recognize that these values can be appropriately adjusted to determine corresponding identity of proteins encoded by two nucleotide sequences by taking into account codon degeneracy, amino acid similarity, reading frame positioning, and the like.

To determine the percent identity of two amino acid sequences or of two nucleic acid sequences, the sequences are aligned for optimal comparison purposes. The percent identity between the two sequences is a function of the number of identical positions shared by the sequences (i.e., percent identity=number of identical positions/total number of positions (e.g., overlapping positions)×100). In one embodiment, the two sequences are the same length. The percent identity between two sequences can be determined using techniques similar to those described below, with or without allowing gaps. In calculating percent identity, typically exact matches are counted.

The determination of percent identity between two sequences can be accomplished using a mathematical algorithm. A nonlimiting example of a mathematical algorithm utilized for the comparison of two sequences is the algorithm of Karlin and Altschul (1990) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 87:2264, modified as in Karlin and Altschul (1993) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 90:5873-5877. Such an algorithm is incorporated into the BLASTN and BLASTX programs of Altschul et al. (1990) J. Mol. Biol. 215:403. BLAST nucleotide searches can be performed with the BLASTN program, score=100, wordlength=12, to obtain nucleotide sequences homologous to delta-endotoxin nucleic acid molecules of the invention. BLAST protein searches can be performed with the BLASTX program, score=50, wordlength=3, to obtain amino acid sequences homologous to delta-endotoxin protein molecules of the invention. To obtain gapped alignments for comparison purposes, Gapped BLAST can be utilized as described in Altschul et al. (1997) Nucleic Acids Res. 25:3389. Alternatively, PSI-Blast can be used to perform an iterated search that detects distant relationships between molecules. See Altschul et al., 1997, supra. When utilizing BLAST, Gapped BLAST, and PSI-Blast programs, the default parameters of the respective programs (e.g., BLASTX and BLASTN) can be used. See www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Another non-limiting example of a mathematical algorithm utilized for the comparison of sequences is the ClustalW algorithm (Higgins et al.(1994) Nucleic Acids Res. 22:4673-4680). ClustalW compares sequences and aligns the entirety of the amino acid or DNA sequence, and thus can provide data about the sequence conservation of the entire amino acid sequence. The ClustalW algorithm is used in several commercially available DNA/amino acid analysis software packages, such as the ALIGNX module of the vector NTi Program Suite (Informax, Inc). After alignment of amino acid sequences with ClustalW, the percent amino acid identity can be assessed. A non-limiting example of a software program useful for analysis of ClustalW alignments is GeneDoc™. Genedoc™ (Karl Nicholas) allows assessment of amino acid (or DNA) similarity and identity between multiple proteins. Another non-limiting example of a mathematical algorithm utilized for the comparison of sequences is the algorithm of Myers and Miller (1988) CABIOS 4:11-17. Such an algorithm is incorporated into the ALIGN program (version 2.0), which is part of the GCG sequence alignment software package (available from Accelrys, Inc., 9865 Scranton Rd., San Diego, Calif., USA). When utilizing the ALIGN program for comparing amino acid sequences, a PAM120 weight residue table, a gap length penalty of 12, and a gap penalty of 4 can be used.

A preferred program is GAP version 10, which uses the algorithm of Needleman and Wunsch, 1970, supra. GAP Version 10 may be used with the following parameters: % identity and % similarity for a nucleotide sequence using GAP Weight of 50 and Length Weight of 3, and the nwsgapdna.cmp scoring matrix; % identity and % similarity for an amino acid sequence using GAP Weight of 8 and Length Weight of 2, and the BLOSUM62 Scoring Matrix. Equivalent programs may also be used. By “equivalent program” is intended any sequence comparison program that, for any two sequences in question, generates an alignment having identical nucleotide or amino acid residue matches and an identical percent sequence identity when compared to the corresponding alignment generated by GAP Version 10.

The invention also encompasses variant nucleic acid molecules. “Variants” of the delta-endotoxin encoding nucleotide sequences include those sequences that encode the delta-endotoxin proteins disclosed herein but that differ conservatively because of the degeneracy of the genetic code as well as those that are sufficiently identical as discussed above. Naturally occurring allelic variants can be identified with the use of well-known molecular biology techniques, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and hybridization techniques as outlined below. Variant nucleotide sequences also include synthetically derived nucleotide sequences that have been generated, for example, by using site-directed mutagenesis but which still encode the delta-endotoxin proteins disclosed in the present invention as discussed below. Variant proteins encompassed by the present invention are biologically active, that is they continue to possess the desired biological activity of the native protein, that is, retaining pesticidal activity. By “retains activity” is intended that the variant will have at least about 30%, preferably at least about 50%, more preferably at least about 70%, even more preferably at least about 80% of the pesticidal activity of the native protein. Methods for measuring pesticidal activity are well known in the art. See, for example, Czapla and Lang (1990) J. Econ. Entomol. 83: 2480-2485; Andrews et al. (1988) Biochem. J. 252:199-206; Marrone et al. (1985) J. of Economic Entomology 78:290-293; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,743,477, all of which are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety.

The skilled artisan will further appreciate that changes can be introduced by mutation into the nucleotide sequences of the invention thereby leading to changes in the amino acid sequence of the encoded delta-endotoxin proteins, without altering the biological activity of the proteins. Thus, variant isolated nucleic acid molecules can be created by introducing one or more nucleotide substitutions, additions, or deletions into the corresponding nucleotide sequence disclosed herein, such that one or more amino acid substitutions, additions or deletions are introduced into the encoded protein. Mutations can be introduced by standard techniques, such as site-directed mutagenesis and PCR-mediated mutagenesis. Such variant nucleotide sequences are also encompassed by the present invention.

For example, preferably, conservative amino acid substitutions may be made at one or more predicted, preferably nonessential amino acid residues. A “nonessential” amino acid residue is a residue that can be altered from the wild-type sequence of a delta-endotoxin protein without altering the biological activity, whereas an “essential” amino acid residue is required for biological activity. A “conservative amino acid substitution” is one in which the amino acid residue is replaced with an amino acid residue having a similar side chain. Families of amino acid residues having similar side chains have been defined in the art. These families include amino acids with basic side chains (e.g., lysine, arginine, histidine), acidic side chains (e.g., aspartic acid, glutamic acid), uncharged polar side chains (e.g., glycine, asparagine, glutamine, serine, threonine, tyrosine, cysteine), nonpolar side chains (e.g., alanine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, proline, phenylalanine, methionine, tryptophan), beta-branched side chains (e.g., threonine, valine, isoleucine) and aromatic side chains (e.g., tyrosine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, histidine).

There are generally five highly conserved regions among the delta-endotoxin proteins, concentrated largely in the center of the domain or at the junction between domains (Rajamohan et al. (1998) Prog. Nucleic Acid Res. Mol. Biol. 60:1-23). The blocks of conserved amino acids for various delta-endotoxins as well as consensus sequences may be found in Schnepf et al. (1998) Microbio. Mol. Biol. Rev. 62:775-806 and Lereclus et al. (1989) Role, Structure, and Molecular Organization of the Genes Coding for the Parasporal d-endotoxins of Bacillus thuringiensis. In Regulation of Procaryotic Development. Issar Smit, Slepecky, R. A., Setlow, P. American Society for Microbiology, Washington, D.C. 20006. It has been proposed that delta-endotoxins having these conserved regions may share a similar structure, consisting of three domains (Li et al. (1991) Nature 353: 815-821). Domain I has the highest similarity between delta-endotoxins (Bravo (1997) J. Bacteriol. 179:2793-2801).

Amino acid substitutions may be made in nonconserved regions that retain function. In general, such substitutions would not be made for conserved amino acid residues, or for amino acid residues residing within a conserved motif, where such residues are essential for protein activity. Examples of residues that are conserved and that may be essential for protein activity include, for example, residues that are identical between all proteins contained in the alignment of FIGS. 1A-1D. Examples of residues that are conserved but that may allow conservative amino acid substitutions and still retain activity include, for example, residues that have only conservative substitutions between all proteins contained in the alignment of FIGS. 1A-1D. However, one of skill in the art would understand that functional variants may have minor conserved or nonconserved alterations in the conserved residues.

Alternatively, variant nucleotide sequences can be made by introducing mutations randomly along all or part of the coding sequence, such as by saturation mutagenesis, and the resultant mutants can be screened for ability to confer pesticidal activity to identify mutants that retain activity. Following mutagenesis, the encoded protein can be expressed recombinantly, and the activity of the protein can be determined using standard assay techniques.

Using methods such as PCR, hybridization, and the like corresponding delta-endotoxin sequences can be identified, such sequences having substantial identity to the sequences of the invention. See, for example, Sambrook J., and Russell, D. W. (2001) Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual. (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.) and Innis, et al. (1990) PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications (Academic Press, N.Y.).

In a hybridization method, all or part of the delta-endotoxin nucleotide sequence can be used to screen cDNA or genomic libraries. Methods for construction of such cDNA and genomic libraries are generally known in the art and are disclosed in Sambrook and Russell, 2001, supra. The so-called hybridization probes may be genomic DNA fragments, cDNA fragments, RNA fragments, or other oligonucleotides, and may be labeled with a detectable group such as 32P, or any other detectable marker, such as other radioisotopes, a fluorescent compound, an enzyme, or an enzyme co-factor. Probes for hybridization can be made by labeling synthetic oligonucleotides based on the known delta-endotoxin-encoding nucleotide sequence disclosed herein. Degenerate primers designed on the basis of conserved nucleotides or amino acid residues in the nucleotide sequence or encoded amino acid sequence can additionally be used. The probe typically comprises a region of nucleotide sequence that hybridizes under stringent conditions to at least about 12, preferably about 25, more preferably at least about 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175, 200, 250, 300, 350, or 400 consecutive nucleotides of delta-endotoxin encoding nucleotide sequence of the invention or a fragment or variant thereof. Preparation of probes for hybridization is generally known in the art and is disclosed in Sambrook and Russell, 2001, supra, herein incorporated by reference.

In hybridization techniques, all or part of a known nucleotide sequence is used as a probe that selectively hybridizes to other corresponding nucleotide sequences present in a population of cloned genomic DNA fragments or cDNA fragments (i.e., genomic or cDNA libraries) from a chosen organism. The hybridization probes may be genomic DNA fragments, cDNA fragments, RNA fragments, or other oligonucleotides, and may be labeled with a detectable group such as 32P, or any other detectable marker. Thus, for example, probes for hybridization can be made by labeling synthetic oligonucleotides based on the delta-endotoxin sequence of the invention. Methods for preparation of probes for hybridization and for construction of cDNA and genomic libraries are generally known in the art and are disclosed in Sambrook et al. (1989) Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual (2d ed., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Plainview, N.Y.).

For example, the entire delta-endotoxin sequence disclosed herein, or one or more portions thereof, may be used as a probe capable of specifically hybridizing to corresponding delta-endotoxin-like sequences and messenger RNAs. To achieve specific hybridization under a variety of conditions, such probes include sequences that are unique and are preferably at least about 10 nucleotides in length, and most preferably at least about 20 nucleotides in length. Such probes may be used to amplify corresponding delta-endotoxin sequences from a chosen organism by PCR. This technique may be used to isolate additional coding sequences from a desired organism or as a diagnostic assay to determine the presence of coding sequences in an organism. Hybridization techniques include hybridization screening of plated DNA libraries (either plaques or colonies; see, for example, Sambrook et al. (1989) Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual (2d ed., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Plainview, N.Y.).

Hybridization of such sequences may be carried out under stringent conditions. By “stringent conditions” or “stringent hybridization conditions” is intended conditions under which a probe will hybridize to its target sequence to a detectably greater degree than to other sequences (e.g., at least 2-fold over background). Stringent conditions are sequence-dependent and will be different in different circumstances. By controlling the stringency of the hybridization and/or washing conditions, target sequences that are 100% complementary to the probe can be identified (homologous probing). Alternatively, stringency conditions can be adjusted to allow some mismatching in sequences so that lower degrees of similarity are detected (heterologous probing). Generally, a probe is less than about 1000 nucleotides in length, preferably less than 500 nucleotides in length.

Typically, stringent conditions will be those in which the salt concentration is less than about 1.5 M Na ion, typically about 0.01 to 1.0 M Na ion concentration (or other salts) at pH 7.0 to 8.3 and the temperature is at least about 30° C. for short probes (e.g., 10 to 50 nucleotides) and at least about 60° C. for long probes (e.g., greater than 50 nucleotides). Stringent conditions may also be achieved with the addition of destabilizing agents such as formamide. Exemplary low stringency conditions include hybridization with a buffer solution of 30 to 35% formamide, 1 M NaCl, 1% SDS (sodium dodecyl sulphate) at 37° C., and a wash in 1× to 2×SSC (20×SSC=3.0 M NaCl/0.3 M trisodium citrate) at 50 to 55° C. Exemplary moderate stringency conditions include hybridization in 40 to 45% formamide, 1.0 M NaCl, 1% SDS at 37° C., and a wash in 0.5× to 1×SSC at 55 to 60° C. Exemplary high stringency conditions include hybridization in 50% formamide, 1 M NaCl, 1% SDS at 37° C., and a wash in 0.1×SSC at 60 to 65° C. Optionally, wash buffers may comprise about 0.1% to about 1% SDS. Duration of hybridization is generally less than about 24 hours, usually about 4 to about 12 hours.

Specificity is typically the function of post-hybridization washes, the critical factors being the ionic strength and temperature of the final wash solution. For DNA-DNA hybrids, the Tm can be approximated from the equation of Meinkoth and Wah1 (1984) Anal. Biochem. 138:267-284: Tm=81.5° C.+16.6 (log M)+0.41 (% GC)−0.61 (% form)−500/L; where M is the molarity of monovalent cations, % GC is the percentage of guanosine and cytosine nucleotides in the DNA, % form is the percentage of formamide in the hybridization solution, and L is the length of the hybrid in base pairs. The Tm is the temperature (under defined ionic strength and pH) at which 50% of a complementary target sequence hybridizes to a perfectly matched probe. Tm is reduced by about 1° C. for each 1% of mismatching; thus, Tm, hybridization, and/or wash conditions can be adjusted to hybridize to sequences of the desired identity. For example, if sequences with ≧90% identity are sought, the Tm can be decreased 10° C. Generally, stringent conditions are selected to be about 5° C. lower than the thermal melting point (Tm) for the specific sequence and its complement at a defined ionic strength and pH. However, severely stringent conditions can utilize a hybridization and/or wash at 1, 2, 3, or 4° C. lower than the thermal melting point (Tm); moderately stringent conditions can utilize a hybridization and/or wash at 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10° C. lower than the thermal melting point (Tm); low stringency conditions can utilize a hybridization and/or wash at 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, or 20° C. lower than the thermal melting point (Tm). Using the equation, hybridization and wash compositions, and desired Tm, those of ordinary skill will understand that variations in the stringency of hybridization and/or wash solutions are inherently described. If the desired degree of mismatching results in a Tm of less than 45° C. (aqueous solution) or 32° C. (formamide solution), it is preferred to increase the SSC concentration so that a higher temperature can be used. An extensive guide to the hybridization of nucleic acids is found in Tijssen (1993) Laboratory Techniques in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology—Hybridization with Nucleic Acid Probes, Part I, Chapter 2 (Elsevier, N.Y.); and Ausubel et al., eds. (1995) Current Protocols in Molecular Biology, Chapter 2 (Greene Publishing and Wiley-Interscience, New York). See Sambrook et al. (1989) Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual (2d ed., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Plainview, N.Y.).

Isolated Proteins and Variants and Fragments Thereof

Delta-endotoxin proteins are also encompassed within the present invention. By “delta-endotoxin protein” is intended a protein having the amino acid sequence set forth in SEQ ID NO:2 or 4. Fragments, biologically active portions, and variants thereof are also provided, and may be used to practice the methods of the present invention. “Fragments” or “biologically active portions” include polypeptide fragments comprising a portion of an amino acid sequence encoding a delta-endotoxin protein as set forth in SEQ ID NO:2 or 4 and that retain pesticidal activity. A biologically active portion of a delta-endotoxin protein can be a polypeptide that is, for example, 10, 25, 50, 100 or more amino acids in length. Such biologically active portions can be prepared by recombinant techniques and evaluated for pesticidal activity. Methods for measuring pesticidal activity are well known in the art. See, for example, Czapla and Lang (1990) J. Econ. Entomol. 83:2480-2485; Andrews et al. (1988) Biochem. J. 252:199-206; Marrone et al. (1985) J. of Economic Entomology 78:290-293; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,743,477, all of which are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety. As used here, a fragment comprises at least 8 contiguous amino acids of SEQ ID NO:2 or 4. The invention encompasses other fragments, however, such as any fragment in the protein greater than about 10, 20, 30, 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650 and 700 amino acids.

By “variants” is intended proteins or polypeptides having an amino acid sequence that is at least about 60%, 65%, preferably about 70%, 75%, more preferably about 80%, 85%, most preferably about 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98% or 99% identical to the amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO:2 or 4. Variants also include polypeptides encoded by a nucleic acid molecule that hybridizes to the nucleic acid molecule of SEQ ID NO:1 or 3, or a complement thereof, under stringent conditions. Such variants generally retain pesticidal activity. Variants include polypeptides that differ in amino acid sequence due to mutagenesis. Variant proteins encompassed by the present invention are biologically active, that is they continue to possess the desired biological activity of the native protein, that is, retaining pesticidal activity. Methods for measuring pesticidal activity are well known in the art. See, for example, Czapla and Lang (1990) J. Econ. Entomol. 83:2480-2485; Andrews et al. (1988) Biochem. J. 252:199-206; Marrone et al. (1985) J. of Economic Entomology 78:290-293; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,743,477, all of which are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety.

Altered or Improved Variants

It is recognized that DNA sequences of a delta-endotoxin may be altered by various methods, and that these alterations may result in DNA sequences encoding proteins with amino acid sequences different than that encoded by the delta-endotoxin of the present invention. This protein may be altered in various ways including amino acid substitutions, deletions, truncations, and insertions. Methods for such manipulations are generally known in the art. For example, amino acid sequence variants of the delta-endotoxin protein can be prepared by mutations in the DNA. This may also be accomplished by one of several forms of mutagenesis and/or in directed evolution. In some aspects, the changes encoded in the amino acid sequence will not substantially affect the function of the protein. Such variants will possess the desired pesticidal activity. However, it is understood that the ability of delta-endotoxin to confer pesticidal activity may be improved by the use of such techniques upon the compositions of this invention. For example, one may express delta-endotoxin in host cells that exhibit high rates of base misincorporation during DNA replication, such as XL-1 Red (Stratagene). After propagation in such strains, one can isolate the delta-endotoxin DNA (for example by preparing plasmid DNA, or by amplifying by PCR and cloning the resulting PCR fragment into a vector), culture the delta-endotoxin mutations in a non-mutagenic strain, and identify mutated delta-endotoxin genes with pesticidal activity, for example by performing an assay to test for pesticidal activity. Generally, the protein is mixed and used in feeding assays. See, for example Marrone et al. (1985) J. of Economic Entomology 78:290-293. Such assays can include contacting plants with one or more pests and determining the plant's ability to survive and/or cause the death of the pests. Examples of mutations that result in increased toxicity are found in Schnepf et al. (1998) Microbiol Mol. Biol. Rev. 62:775-806.

Alternatively, alterations may be made to the protein sequence of many proteins at the amino or carboxy terminus without substantially affecting activity. This can include insertions, deletions, or alterations introduced by modern molecular methods, such as PCR, including PCR amplifications that alter or extend the protein coding sequence by virtue of inclusion of amino acid encoding sequences in the oligonucleotides utilized in the PCR amplification. Alternatively, the protein sequences added can include entire protein-coding sequences, such as those used commonly in the art to generate protein fusions. Such fusion proteins are often used to (1) increase expression of a protein of interest (2) introduce a binding domain, enzymatic activity, or epitope to facilitate either protein purification, protein detection, or other experimental uses known in the art (3) target secretion or translation of a protein to a subcellular organelle, such as the periplasmic space of Gram-negative bacteria, or the endoplasmic reticulum of eukaryotic cells, the latter of which often results in glycosylation of the protein.

Variant nucleotide and amino acid sequences of the present invention also encompass sequences derived from mutagenic and recombinogenic procedures such as DNA shuffling. With such a procedure, one or more different delta-endotoxin protein coding regions can be used to create a new delta-endotoxin protein possessing the desired properties. In this manner, libraries of recombinant polynucleotides are generated from a population of related sequence polynucleotides comprising sequence regions that have substantial sequence identity and can be homologously recombined in vitro or in vivo. For example, using this approach, sequence motifs encoding a domain of interest may be shuffled between the delta-endotoxin gene of the invention and other known delta-endotoxin genes to obtain a new gene coding for a protein with an improved property of interest, such as an increased insecticidal activity. Strategies for such DNA shuffling are known in the art. See, for example, Stemmer (1994) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91:10747-10751; Stemmer (1994) Nature 370:389-391; Crameri et al. (1997) Nature Biotech. 15:436-438; Moore et al. (1997) J. Mol. Biol. 272:336-347; Zhang et al. (1997) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94:4504-4509; Crameri et al. (1998) Nature 391:288-291; and U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,605,793 and 5,837,458.

Domain swapping or shuffling is another mechanism for generating altered delta-endotoxin proteins. Domains II and III may be swapped between delta-endotoxin proteins, resulting in hybrid or chimeric toxins with improved pesticidal activity or target spectrum. Methods for generating recombinant proteins and testing them for pesticidal activity are well known in the art (see, for example, Naimov et al. (2001) Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67:5328-5330; de Maagd et al. (1996) Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 62:1537-1543; Ge et al. (1991) J. Biol. Chem. 266:17954-17958; Schnepf et al. (1990) J. Biol. Chem. 265:20923-20930; Rang et al. 91999) Appl. Environ. Micriobiol. 65:2918-2925).

Plant Transformation

Transformation of plant cells can be accomplished by one of several techniques known in the art. First, one engineers the delta-endotoxin gene in a way that allows its expression in plant cells. Typically a construct that expresses such a protein would contain a promoter to drive transcription of the gene, as well as a 3 ′ untranslated region to allow transcription termination and polyadenylation. The organization of such constructs is well known in the art. In some instances, it may be useful to engineer the gene such that the resulting peptide is secreted, or otherwise targeted within the plant cell. For example, the gene can be engineered to contain a signal peptide to facilitate transfer of the peptide to the endoplasmic reticulum. It may also be preferable to engineer the plant expression cassette to contain an intron, such that mRNA processing of the intron is required for expression.

Typically this ‘plant expression cassette’ will be inserted into a ‘plant transformation vector’. This plant transformation vector may be comprised of one or more DNA vectors needed for achieving plant transformation. For example, it is a common practice in the art to utilize plant transformation vectors that are comprised of more than one contiguous DNA segment. These vectors are often referred to in the art as ‘binary vectors’. Binary vectors as well as vectors with helper plasmids are most often used for Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, where the size and complexity of DNA segments needed to achieve efficient transformation is quite large, and it is advantageous to separate functions onto separate DNA molecules. Binary vectors typically contain a plasmid vector that contains the cis-acting sequences required for T-DNA transfer (such as left border and right border), a selectable marker that is engineered to be capable of expression in a plant cell, and a ‘gene of interest’ (a gene engineered to be capable of expression in a plant cell for which generation of transgenic plants is desired). Also present on this plasmid vector are sequences required for bacterial replication. The cis-acting sequences are arranged in a fashion to allow efficient transfer into plant cells and expression therein. For example, the selectable marker gene and the gene of interest are located between the left and right borders. Often a second plasmid vector contains the trans-acting factors that mediate T-DNA transfer from Agrobacterium to plant cells. This plasmid often contains the virulence functions (Vir genes) that allow infection of plant cells by Agrobacterium, and transfer of DNA by cleavage at border sequences and vir-mediated DNA transfer, as in understood in the art (Hellens and Mullineaux (2000) Trends in Plant Science 5:446-451). Several types of Agrobacterium strains (e.g. LBA4404, GV3101, EHA101, EHA105, etc.) can be used for plant transformation. The second plasmid vector is not necessary for transforming the plants by other methods such as microprojection, microinjection, electroporation, polyethylene glycol, etc.

In general, plant transformation methods involve transferring heterologous DNA into target plant cells (e.g. immature or mature embryos, suspension cultures, undifferentiated callus, protoplasts, etc.), followed by applying a maximum threshold level of appropriate selection (depending on the selectable marker gene) to recover the transformed plant cells from a group of untransformed cell mass. Explants are typically transferred to a fresh supply of the same medium and cultured routinely. Subsequently, the transformed cells are differentiated into shoots after placing on regeneration medium supplemented with a maximum threshold level of selecting agent. The shoots are then transferred to a selective rooting medium for recovering rooted shoot or plantlet. The transgenic plantlet then grows into a mature plant and produces fertile seeds (e.g. Hiei et al. (1994) The Plant Journal 6:271-282; Ishida et al. (1996) Nature Biotechnology 14:745-750). Explants are typically transferred to a fresh supply of the same medium and cultured routinely. A general description of the techniques and methods for generating transgenic plants are found in Ayres and Park (1994) Critical Reviews in Plant Science 13:219-239 and Bommineni and Jauhar (1997) Maydica 42:107-120. Since the transformed material contains many cells; both transformed and non-transformed cells are present in any piece of subjected target callus or tissue or group of cells. The ability to kill non-transformed cells and allow transformed cells to proliferate results in transformed plant cultures. Often, the ability to remove non-transformed cells is a limitation to rapid recovery of transformed plant cells and successful generation of transgenic plants.

Generation of transgenic plants may be performed by one of several methods, including but not limited to introduction of heterologous DNA by Agrobacterium into plant cells (Agrobacterium-mediated transformation), bombardment of plant cells with heterologous foreign DNA adhered to particles, and various other non-particle direct-mediated methods (e.g. Hiei et al. (1994) The Plant Journal 6:271-282; Ishida et al. (1996) Nature Biotechnology 14:745-750; Ayres and Park (1994) Critical Reviews in Plant Science 13:219-239; Bommineni and Jauhar (1997) Maydica 42:107-120) to transfer DNA.

Transformation protocols as well as protocols for introducing nucleotide sequences into plants may vary depending on the type of plant or plant cell, i.e., monocot or dicot, targeted for transformation. Suitable methods of introducing nucleotide sequences into plant cells and subsequent insertion into the plant genome include microinjection (Crossway et al. (1986) Biotechniques 4:320-334), electroporation (Riggs et al. (1986) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 83:5602-5606, Agrobacterium-mediated transformation (U.S. Pat. No. 5,563,055; U.S. Pat. No. 5,981,840), direct gene transfer (Paszkowski et al. (1984) EMBO J. 3:2717-2722), and ballistic particle acceleration (see, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,945,050; U.S. Pat. No. 5,879,918; U.S. Pat. No. 5,886,244; U.S. Pat. No. 5,932,782; Tomes et al. (1995) “Direct DNA Transfer into Intact Plant Cells via Microprojectile Bombardment,” in Plant Cell, Tissue, and Organ Culture: Fundamental Methods, ed. Gamborg and Phillips (Springer-Verlag, Berlin); McCabe et al. (1988) Biotechnology 6:923-926); aerosol beam transformation (U.S. Published Application No. 20010026941; U.S. Pat. No. 4,945,050; International Publication No. WO 91/00915; U.S. Published Application No. 2002015066); and Lec1 transformation (WO 00/28058). Also see Weissinger et al. (1988) Ann. Rev. Genet. 22:421-477; Sanford et al. (1987) Particulate Science and Technology 5:27-37; Christou et al. (1988) Plant Physiol. 87:671-674; McCabe et al. (1988) Bio/Technology 6:923-926; Finer and McMullen (1991) In Vitro Cell Dev. Biol. 27P:175-182; Singh et al. (1998) Theor. Appl. Genet. 96:319-324; Datta et al. (1990) Biotechnology 8:736-740; Klein et al. (1988) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 85:4305-4309; U.S. Pat. No. 5,240,855; U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,322,783 and 5,324,646; Klein et al. (1988) Plant Physiol. 91:440-444; Hooykaas-Van Slogteren et al. (1984) Nature (London) 311:763-764; U.S. Pat. No. 5,736,369; Bytebier et al. (1987) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 84:5345-5349; De Wet et al. (1985) in The Experimental Manipulation of Ovule Tissues, ed. Chapman et al. (Longman, N.Y.), pp. 197-209; Kaeppler et al. (1990) Plant Cell Reports 9:415-418 and Kaeppler et al. (1992) Theor. Appl. Genet. 84:560-566; D'Halluin et al. (1992) Plant Cell 4:1495-1505; Li et al. (1993) Plant Cell Reports 12:250-255 and Christou and Ford (1995) Annals of Botany 75:407-413; Osjoda et al. (1996) Nature Biotechnology 14:745-750; all of which are herein incorporated by reference.

Following integration of heterologous foreign DNA into plant cells, one then applies a maximum threshold level of appropriate selection in the medium to kill the untransformed cells and separate and proliferate the putatively transformed cells that survive from this selection treatment by transferring regularly to a fresh medium. By continuous passage and challenge with appropriate selection, one identifies and proliferates the cells that are transformed with the plasmid vector. Then molecular and biochemical methods will be used for confirming the presence of the integrated heterologous gene of interest in the genome of transgenic plant.

The cells that have been transformed may be grown into plants in accordance with conventional ways. See, for example, McCormick et al. (1986) Plant Cell Reports 5:81-84. These plants may then be grown, and either pollinated with the same transformed strain or different strains, and the resulting hybrid having constitutive expression of the desired phenotypic characteristic identified. Two or more generations may be grown to ensure that expression of the desired phenotypic characteristic is stably maintained and inherited and then seeds harvested to ensure expression of the desired phenotypic characteristic has been achieved. In this manner, the present invention provides transformed seed (also referred to as “transgenic seed”) having a nucleotide construct of the invention, for example, an expression cassette of the invention, stably incorporated into their genome.

The delta-endotoxin sequences of the invention may be provided in expression cassettes for expression in the plant of interest. The cassette will include 5′ and 3′ regulatory sequences operably linked to a sequence of the invention. By “operably linked” is intended a functional linkage between a promoter and a second sequence, wherein the promoter sequence initiates and mediates transcription of the DNA sequence corresponding to the second sequence. Generally, operably linked means that the nucleic acid sequences being linked are contiguous and, where necessary to join two protein coding regions, contiguous and in the same reading frame. The cassette may additionally contain at least one additional gene to be cotransformed into the organism. Alternatively, the additional gene(s) can be provided on multiple expression cassettes.

Such an expression cassette is provided with a plurality of restriction sites for insertion of the delta-endotoxin sequence to be under the transcriptional regulation of the regulatory regions.

The expression cassette will include in the 5′-3′ direction of transcription, a transcriptional and translational initiation region (i.e., a promoter), a DNA sequence of the invention, and a transcriptional and translational termination region (i.e., termination region) functional in plants. The promoter may be native or analogous, or foreign or heterologous, to the plant host and/or to the DNA sequence of the invention. Additionally, the promoter may be the natural sequence or alternatively a synthetic sequence. Where the promoter is “native” or “homologous” to the plant host, it is intended that the promoter is found in the native plant into which the promoter is introduced. Where the promoter is “foreign” or “heterologous” to the DNA sequence of the invention, it is intended that the promoter is not the native or naturally occurring promoter for the operably linked DNA sequence of the invention.

The termination region may be native with the transcriptional initiation region, may be native with the operably linked DNA sequence of interest, may be native with the plant host, or may be derived from another source (i.e., foreign or heterologous to the promoter, the DNA sequence of interest, the plant host, or any combination thereof). Convenient termination regions are available from the Ti-plasmid of A. tumefaciens, such as the octopine synthase and nopaline synthase termination regions. See also Guerineau et al. (1991) Mol. Gen. Genet. 262:141-144; Proudfoot (1991) Cell 64:671-674; Sanfacon et al. (1991) Genes Dev. 5:141-149; Mogen et al. (1990) Plant Cell 2:1261-1272; Munroe et al. (1990) Gene 91:151-158; Ballas et al. (1989) Nucleic Acids Res. 17:7891-7903; and Joshi et al. (1987) Nucleic Acid Res. 15:9627-9639.

Where appropriate, the gene(s) may be optimized for increased expression in the transformed host cell. That is, the genes can be synthesized using host cell-preferred codons for improved expression, or may be synthesized using codons at a host-preferred codon usage frequency. Generally, the GC content of the gene will be increased. See, for example, Campbell and Gowri (1990) Plant Physiol. 92:1-11 for a discussion of host-preferred codon usage. Methods are available in the art for synthesizing plant-preferred genes. See, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,380,831, and 5,436,391, and Murray et al. (1989) Nucleic Acids Res. 17:477-498, herein incorporated by reference.

In one embodiment, the nucleic acids of interest are targeted to the chloroplast for expression. In this manner, where the nucleic acid of interest is not directly inserted into the chloroplast, the expression cassette will additionally contain a nucleic acid encoding a transit peptide to direct the gene product of interest to the chloroplasts. Such transit peptides are known in the art. See, for example, Von Heijne et al. (1991) Plant Mol. Biol. Rep. 9:104-126; Clark et al. (1989) J. Biol. Chem. 264:17544-17550; Della-Cioppa et al. (1987) Plant Physiol. 84:965-968; Romer et al. (1993) Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 196:1414-1421; and Shah et al. (1986) Science 233:478-481.

Methods for transformation of chloroplasts are known in the art. See, for example, Svab et al. (1990) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 87:8526-8530; Svab and Maliga (1993) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 90:913-917; Svab and Maliga (1993) EMBO J. 12:601-606. The method relies on particle gun delivery of DNA containing a selectable marker and targeting of the DNA to the plastid genome through homologous recombination. Additionally, plastid transformation can be accomplished by transactivation of a silent plastid-borne transgene by tissue-preferred expression of a nuclear-encoded and plastid-directed RNA polymerase. Such a system has been reported in McBride et al. (1994) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91:7301-7305.

The nucleic acids of interest to be targeted to the chloroplast may be optimized for expression in the chloroplast to account for differences in codon usage between the plant nucleus and this organelle. In this manner, the nucleic acids of interest may be synthesized using chloroplast-preferred codons. See, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,380,831, herein incorporated by reference.

Evaluation of Plant Transformation

Following introduction of heterologous foreign DNA into plant cells, the transformation or integration of heterologous gene in the plant genome is confirmed by various methods such as analysis of nucleic acids, proteins and metabolites associated with the integrated gene.

PCR Analysis: PCR analysis is a rapid method to screen transformed cells, tissue or shoots for the presence of incorporated gene at the earlier stage before transplanting into the soil (Sambrook and Russell (2001) Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.). PCR is carried out using oligonucleotide primers specific to the gene of interest or Agrobacterium vector background, etc.
Southern Analysis: Plant transformation is confirmed by Southern blot analysis of genomic DNA (Sambrook and Russell, 2001, supra). In general, total DNA is extracted from the transformant, digested with appropriate restriction enzymes, fractionated in an agarose gel and transferred to a nitrocellulose or nylon membrane. The membrane or “blot” then is probed with, for example, radiolabeled 32P target DNA fragment to confirm the integration of introduced gene in the plant genome according to standard techniques (Sambrook and Russell, 2001, supra).
Northern Analysis: RNA is isolated from specific tissues of transformant, fractionated in a formaldehyde agarose gel, blotted onto a nylon filter according to standard procedures that are routinely used in the art (Sambrook and Russell, 2001, supra). Expression of RNA encoded by the delta-endotoxin is then tested by hybridizing the filter to a radioactive probe derived from a delta-endotoxin, by methods known in the art (Sambrook and Russell, 2001, supra).
Western blot and Biochemical assays: Western blot and biochemical assays and the like may be carried out on the transgenic plants to confirm the presence of protein encoded by the delta-endotoxin gene by standard procedures (Sambrook and Russell, 2001, supra) using antibodies that bind to one or more epitopes present on the delta-endotoxin protein.
Pesticidal Activity in Plants

In another aspect of the invention, one may generate transgenic plants expressing delta-endotoxin that have pesticidal activity. Methods described above by way of example may be utilized to generate transgenic plants, but the manner in which the transgenic plant cells are generated is not critical to this invention. Methods known or described in the art such as Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, aerosol beam, biolistic transformation, and non-particle-mediated methods may be used at the discretion of the experimenter. Plants expressing delta-endotoxin may be isolated by common methods described in the art, for example by transformation of callus, selection of transformed callus, and regeneration of fertile plants from such transgenic callus. In such process, one may use any gene as a selectable marker so long as its expression in plant cells confers ability to identify or select for transformed cells.

A number of markers have been developed for use with plant cells, such as resistance to chloramphenicol, the aminoglycoside G418, hygromycin, or the like. Other genes that encode a product involved in chloroplast metabolism may also be used as selectable markers. For example, genes that provide resistance to plant herbicides such as glyphosate, bromoxynil, or imidazolinone may find particular use. Such genes have been reported (Stalker et al. (1985) J. Biol. Chem. 263:6310-6314 (bromoxynil resistance nitrilase gene); and Sathasivan et al. (1990) Nucl. Acids Res. 18:2188 (AHAS imidazolinone resistance gene).

Fertile plants expressing delta-endotoxin may be tested for pesticidal activity, and the plants showing optimal activity selected for further breeding. Methods are available in the art to assay for pest activity. Generally, the protein is mixed and used in feeding assays. See, for example Marrone et al. (1985) J. of Economic Entomology 78:290-293.

The present invention may be used for transformation of any plant species, including, but not limited to, monocots and dicots. Examples of plants of interest include, but are not limited to, corn (maize), sorghum, wheat, sunflower, tomato, crucifers, peppers, potato, cotton, rice, soybean, sugarbeet, sugarcane, tobacco, barley, and oilseed rape, Brassica sp., alfalfa, rye, millet, safflower, peanuts, sweet potato, cassava, coffee, coconut, pineapple, citrus trees, cocoa, tea, banana, avocado, fig, guava, mango, olive, papaya, cashew, macadamia, almond, oats, vegetables, ornamentals, and conifers.

Vegetables include, but are not limited to, tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, lima beans, peas, and members of the genus Cucumis such as cucumber, cantaloupe, and musk melon. Ornamentals include, but are not limited to, azalea, hydrangea, hibiscus, roses, tulips, daffodils, petunias, carnation, poinsettia, and chrysanthemum. Preferably, plants of the present invention are crop plants (for example, maize, sorghum, wheat, sunflower, tomato, crucifers, peppers, potato, cotton, rice, soybean, sugarbeet, sugarcane, tobacco, barley, oilseed rape., etc.).

Use in Pesticidal Control

General methods for employing the strains of the invention in pesticide control or in engineering other organisms as pesticidal agents are known in the art. See, for example U.S. Pat. No. 5,039,523 and EP 0480762A2.

The Bacillus strains of the invention or the microorganisms that have been genetically altered to contain the pesticidal gene and protein may be used for protecting agricultural crops and products from pests. In one aspect of the invention, whole, i.e., unlysed, cells of a toxin (pesticide)-producing organism are treated with reagents that prolong the activity of the toxin produced in the cell when the cell is applied to the environment of target pest(s).

Alternatively, the pesticide is produced by introducing a heterologous gene into a cellular host. Expression of the heterologous gene results, directly or indirectly, in the intracellular production and maintenance of the pesticide. In one aspect of this invention, these cells are then treated under conditions that prolong the activity of the toxin produced in the cell when the cell is applied to the environment of target pest(s). The resulting product retains the toxicity of the toxin. These naturally encapsulated pesticides may then be formulated in accordance with conventional techniques for application to the environment hosting a target pest, e.g., soil, water, and foliage of plants. See, for example EPA 0192319, and the references cited therein. Alternatively, one may formulate the cells expressing the genes of this invention such as to allow application of the resulting material as a pesticide.

The active ingredients of the present invention are normally applied in the form of compositions and can be applied to the crop area or plant to be treated, simultaneously or in succession, with other compounds. These compounds can be fertilizers, weed killers, cryoprotectants, surfactants, detergents, pesticidal soaps, dormant oils, polymers, and/or time-release or biodegradable carrier formulations that permit long-term dosing of a target area following a single application of the formulation. They can also be selective herbicides, chemical insecticides, virucides, microbicides, amoebicides, pesticides, fungicides, bacteriocides, nematocides, mollusocides or mixtures of several of these preparations, if desired, together with further agriculturally acceptable carriers, surfactants or application-promoting adjuvants customarily employed in the art of formulation. Suitable carriers and adjuvants can be solid or liquid and correspond to the substances ordinarily employed in formulation technology, e.g. natural or regenerated mineral substances, solvents, dispersants, wetting agents, tackifiers, binders or fertilizers. Likewise the formulations may be prepared into edible “baits” or fashioned into pest “traps” to permit feeding or ingestion by a target pest of the pesticidal formulation.

Preferred methods of applying an active ingredient of the present invention or an agrochemical composition of the present invention that contains at least one of the pesticidal proteins produced by the bacterial strains of the present invention are leaf application, seed coating and soil application. The number of applications and the rate of application depend on the intensity of infestation by the corresponding pest.

The composition may be formulated as a powder, dust, pellet, granule, spray, emulsion, colloid, solution, or such like, and may be preparable by such conventional means as desiccation, lyophilization, homogenation, extraction, filtration, centrifugation, sedimentation, or concentration of a culture of cells comprising the polypeptide. In all such compositions that contain at least one such pesticidal polypeptide, the polypeptide may be present in a concentration of from about 1% to about 99% by weight.

Lepidopteran or Coleopteran pests may be killed or reduced in numbers in a given area by the methods of the invention, or may be prophylactically applied to an environmental area to prevent infestation by a susceptible pest. Preferably the pest ingests, or is contacted with, a pesticidally-effective amount of the polypeptide. By “pesticidally-effective amount” is intended an amount of the pesticide that is able to bring about death to at least one pest, or to noticeably reduce pest growth, feeding, or normal physiological development. This amount will vary depending on such factors as, for example, the specific target pests to be controlled, the specific environment, location, plant, crop, or agricultural site to be treated, the environmental conditions, and the method, rate, concentration, stability, and quantity of application of the pesticidally-effective polypeptide composition. The formulations may also vary with respect to climatic conditions, environmental considerations, and/or frequency of application and/or severity of pest infestation.

The pesticide compositions described may be made by formulating either the bacterial cell, crystal and/or spore suspension, or isolated protein component with the desired agriculturally-acceptable carrier. The compositions may be formulated prior to administration in an appropriate means such as lyophilized, freeze-dried, desiccated, or in an aqueous carrier, medium or suitable diluent, such as saline or other buffer. The formulated compositions may be in the form of a dust or granular material, or a suspension in oil (vegetable or mineral), or water or oil/water emulsions, or as a wettable powder, or in combination with any other carrier material suitable for agricultural application. Suitable agricultural carriers can be solid or liquid and are well known in the art. The term “agriculturally-acceptable carrier” covers all adjuvants, inert components, dispersants, surfactants, tackifiers, binders, etc. that are ordinarily used in pesticide formulation technology; these are well known to those skilled in pesticide formulation. The formulations may be mixed with one or more solid or liquid adjuvants and prepared by various means, e.g., by homogeneously mixing, blending and/or grinding the pesticidal composition with suitable adjuvants using conventional formulation techniques. Suitable formulations and application methods are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,468,523, herein incorporated by reference.

“Pest” includes but is not limited to, insects, fungi, bacteria, nematodes, mites, ticks, and the like. Insect pests include insects selected from the orders Coleoptera, Diptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Mallophaga, Homoptera, Hemiptera, Orthoptera, Thysanoptera, Dermaptera, Isoptera, Anoplura, Siphonaptera, Trichoptera, etc., particularly Coleoptera and Lepidoptera. Insect pests of the invention for the major crops include: Maize: Ostrinia nubilalis, European corn borer; Agrotis ipsilon, black cutworm; Helicoverpa zea, corn earworm; Spodoptera frugiperda, fall armyworm; Diatraea grandiosella, southwestern corn borer; Elasmopalpus lignosellus, lesser cornstalk borer; Diatraea saccharalis, surgarcane borer; Diabrotica virgifera, western corn rootworm; Diabrotica longicornis barberi, northern corn rootworm; Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi, southern corn rootworm; Melanotus spp., wireworms; Cyclocephala borealis, northern masked chafer (white grub); Cyclocephala immaculata, southern masked chafer (white grub); Popillia japonica, Japanese beetle; Chaetocnema pulicaria, corn flea beetle; Sphenophorus maidis, maize billbug; Rhopalosiphum maidis, corn leaf aphid; Anuraphis maidiradicis, corn root aphid; Blissus leucopterus leucopterus, chinch bug; Melanoplus femurrubrum, redlegged grasshopper; Melanoplus sanguinipes, migratory grasshopper; Hylemya platura, seedcorn maggot; Agromyza parvicornis, corn blot leafminer; Anaphothrips obscrurus, grass thrips; Solenopsis milesta, thief ant; Tetranychus urticae, twospotted spider mite; Sorghum: Chilo partellus, sorghum borer; Spodoptera frugiperda, fall armyworm; Helicoverpa zea, corn earworm; Elasmopalpus lignosellus, lesser cornstalk borer; Feltia subterranea, granulate cutworm; Phyllophaga crinita, white grub; Eleodes, Conoderus, and Aeolus spp., wireworms; Oulema melanopus, cereal leaf beetle; Chaetocnema pulicaria, corn flea beetle; Sphenophorus maidis, maize billbug; Rhopalosiphum maidis; corn leaf aphid; Sipha flava, yellow sugarcane aphid; Blissus leucopterus leucopterus, chinch bug; Contarinia sorghicola, sorghum midge; Tetranychus cinnabarinus, carmine spider mite; Tetranychus urticae, twospotted spider mite; Wheat: Pseudaletia unipunctata, army worm; Spodoptera frugiperda, fall armyworm; Elasmopalpus lignosellus, lesser cornstalk borer; Agrotis orthogonia, western cutworm; Elasmopalpus lignosellus, lesser cornstalk borer; Oulema melanopus, cereal leaf beetle; Hypera punctata, clover leaf weevil; Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi, southern corn rootworm; Russian wheat aphid; Schizaphis graminum, greenbug; Macrosiphum avenae, English grain aphid; Melanoplus femurrubrum, redlegged grasshopper; Melanoplus differentialis, differential grasshopper; Melanoplus sanguinipes, migratory grasshopper; Mayetiola destructor, Hessian fly; Sitodiplosis mosellana, wheat midge; Meromyza americana, wheat stem maggot; Hylemya coarctata, wheat bulb fly; Frankliniella fusca, tobacco thrips; Cephus cinctus, wheat stem sawfly; Aceria tulipae, wheat curl mite; Sunflower: Suleima helianthana, sunflower bud moth; Homoeosoma electellum, sunflower moth; zygogramma exclamationis, sunflower beetle; Bothyrus gibbosus, carrot beetle; Neolasioptera murtfeldtiana, sunflower seed midge; Cotton: Heliothis virescens, cotton budworm; Helicoverpa zea, cotton bollworm; Spodoptera exigua, beet armyworm; Pectinophora gossypiella, pink bollworm; Anthonomus grandis, boll weevil; Aphis gossypii, cotton aphid; Pseudatomoscelis seriatus, cotton fleahopper; Trialeurodes abutilonea, bandedwinged whitefly; Lygus lineolaris, tarnished plant bug; Melanoplus femurrubrum, redlegged grasshopper; Melanoplus differentialis, differential grasshopper; Thrips tabaci, onion thrips; Franklinkiella fusca, tobacco thrips; Tetranychus cinnabarinus, carmine spider mite; Tetranychus urticae, twospotted spider mite; Rice: Diatraea saccharalis, sugarcane borer; Spodoptera frugiperda, fall armyworm; Helicoverpa zea, corn earworm; Colaspis brunnea, grape colaspis; Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus, rice water weevil; Sitophilus oryzae, rice weevil; Nephotettix nigropictus, rice leafhopper; Blissus leucopterus leucopterus, chinch bug; Acrosternum hilare, green stink bug; Soybean: Pseudoplusia includens, soybean looper; Anticarsia gemmatalis, velvetbean caterpillar; Plathypena scabra, green cloverworm; Ostrinia nubilalis, European corn borer; Agrotis ipsilon, black cutworm; Spodoptera exigua, beet armyworm; Heliothis virescens, cotton budworm; Helicoverpa zea, cotton bollworm; Epilachna varivestis, Mexican bean beetle; Myzus persicae, green peach aphid; Empoasca fabae, potato leafhopper; Acrosternum hilare, green stink bug; Melanoplus femurrubrum, redlegged grasshopper; Melanoplus differentialis, differential grasshopper; Hylemya platura, seedcorn maggot; Sericothrips variabilis, soybean thrips; Thrips tabaci, onion thrips; Tetranychus turkestani, strawberry spider mite; Tetranychus urticae, twospotted spider mite; Barley: Ostrinia nubilalis, European corn borer; Agrotis ipsilon, black cutworm; Schizaphis graminum, greenbug; Blissus leucopterus leucopterus, chinch bug; Acrosternum hilare, green stink bug; Euschistus servus, brown stink bug; Delia platura, seedcorn maggot; Mayetiola destructor, Hessian fly; Petrobia latens, brown wheat mite; Oil Seed Rape: Brevicoryne brassicae, cabbage aphid; Phyllotreta cruciferae, Flea beetle; Mamestra configurata, Bertha armyworm; Plutella xylostella, Diamond-back moth; Delia ssp., Root maggots.

Nematodes include parasitic nematodes such as root-knot, cyst, and lesion nematodes, including Heterodera spp., Meloidogyne spp., and Globodera spp.; particularly members of the cyst nematodes, including, but not limited to, Heterodera glycines (soybean cyst nematode); Heterodera schachtii (beet cyst nematode); Heterodera avenae (cereal cyst nematode); and Globodera rostochiensis and Globodera pailida (potato cyst nematodes). Lesion nematodes include Pratylenchus spp.

The following examples are offered by way of illustration and not by way of limitation.

EXPERIMENTAL Example 1 Extraction of Plasmid DNA

A pure culture of strain ATX13002 was grown in large quantities of rich media. The culture was spun to harvest the cell pellet. The cell pellet was then prepared by treatment with SDS allowing breakage of the cell wall and release of DNA. Proteins and large genomic DNA was then precipitated by a high salt concentration. The plasmid DNA was then precipitated by standard ethanol precipitation. The plasmid DNA was separated from any remaining chromosomal DNA by high-speed centrifugation through a cesium chloride gradient. The DNA was visualized in the gradient by UV light and the band of lower density (i.e. the lower band) was extracted using a syringe. This band contained the plasmid DNA from strain ATX13002. The quality of the DNA was checked by visualization on an agarose gel.

Example 2 Cloning of Genes

The purified plasmid DNA was sheared into 5-10 kb sized fragments and the 5′ and 3′ single-stranded overhangs repaired using T4 DNA polymerase and Klenow fragment in the presence of all four dNTPs, as known in the art. Phosphates were then attached to the 5′ ends by treatment with T4 polynucleotide kinase, as known in the art. The repaired DNA fragments were then ligated overnight into a standard high copy vector (i.e. pBluescript SK+), suitably prepared to accept the inserts as known in the art (for example by digestion with a restriction enzyme producing blunt ends).

The quality of the library was analyzed by digesting a subset of clones with a restriction enzyme known to have a cleavage site flanking the cloning site. A high percentage of clones were determined to contain inserts, with an average insert size of 5-6 kb.

Example 3 High Throughput Sequencing of Library Plates

Once the shotgun library quality was checked and confirmed, colonies were grown in a rich broth in 2 ml 96-well blocks overnight at 37° C. at a shaking speed of 350 rpm. The blocks were spun to harvest the cells to the bottom of the block. The blocks were then prepared by standard alkaline lysis prep in a high throughput format.

The end sequences of clones from this library were then determined for a large number of clones from each block in the following way: The DNA sequence of each clone chosen for analysis was determined using the fluorescent dye terminator sequencing technique (Applied Biosystems) and standard primers flanking each side of the cloning site. Once the reactions had been carried out in the thermocycler, the DNA was precipitated using standard ethanol precipitation. The DNA was resuspended in water and loaded onto a capillary sequencing machine. Each library plate of DNA was sequenced from either end of the cloning site, yielding two reads per plate over each insert.

Example 4 Assembly and Screening of Sequencing Data

DNA sequences obtained were compiled into an assembly project and aligned together to form contigs. This can be done efficiently using a computer program, such as Vector NTi, or alternatively by using the Pred/Phrap suite of DNA alignment and analysis programs. These contigs, along with any individual read that may not have been added to a contig, were compared to a compiled database of all classes of known pesticidal genes. Contigs or individual reads identified as having identity to a known endotoxin or pesticidal gene were analyzed further. Among the sequences obtained, clone pAX003 contained DNA identified as having homology to known endotoxin genes. Therefore, pAX003 was selected for further sequencing.

Example 5 Sequencing of pAX003, and Identification of AXMI-003

Primers were designed to anneal to pAX003, in a manner such that DNA sequences generated from such primers will overlap existing DNA sequence of the clone(s). This process, known as “oligo walking”, is well known in the art. This process was utilized to determine the entire DNA sequence of the region exhibiting homology to a known endotoxin gene. In the case of pAX003, this process was used to determine the DNA sequence of the entire clone, resulting in a single nucleotide sequence. The completed DNA sequence was then placed back into the original large assembly for further validation. This allowed incorporation of more DNA sequence reads into the contig, resulting in multiple reads of coverage over the entire region.

Analysis of the DNA sequence of pAX003 by methods known in the art identified an open reading frame with homology to known delta endotoxin genes. This open reading frame is designated as AXMI-003. The DNA sequence of AXMI-003 is provided as SEQ ID NO:1 and SEQ ID NO:3, and the amino acid sequence of the predicted AXMI-003 protein is provided in SEQ ID NO:2 and SEQ ID NO:4.

Example 6 Homology of AXMI-003 to Known Endotoxin Genes

Searches of DNA and protein databases with the DNA sequence and amino acid sequence of AXMI-003 reveal that AXMI-003 is homologous to known endotoxins.

Blast searches identify members of the cry1I family of endotoxins as having the strongest block of homology to AXMI-003. AXMI-003 protein (SEQ ID NO:2) was aligned with a large set of holotype endotoxin genes (Crickmore et al. (1998) Biology Reviews 62:807-813). This alignment shows that AXMI-003 has the conserved domains typical of an endotoxin. A subset of the alignment is shown in FIG. 1. Table 1 shows the percent identity of the AXMI-003 protein to several endotoxins. This alignment demonstrates that the AXMI-003 protein (SEQ ID NO:2) is most homologous to the cry1I family of endotoxins. The overall amino acid identity of AXMI-003 to cry1Ia (SEQ id NO:11) is 90% (see Table 1). The endotoxin family with the next highest homology to AXMI-003 is cry1Ba (SEQ ID NO:8), which is 57% identical to AXMI-003 over the length of the AXMI-003 protein. Inspection of the amino acid sequence of AXMI-003 suggests that it does not contain a C-terminal non-toxic domain as is present in several endotoxin families. By removing this C-terminal protein of the toxins from the alignment, the alignment reflects the amino acid identity present solely in the toxin domains (see Table 1, column three). This ‘trimmed’ alignment of AXMI-003 with several exemplary endotoxins is shown in FIG. 1.

Alignment of AXMI-003 protein (SEQ ID NO:2) to a set of cry1I toxins is shown in FIG. 2. AXMI-003 has the highest homology to cry1IE1 (95% identity; U.S. Pat. No. 5,985,267; SEQ ID NO:17). However, there are clear differences between AXMI-003 and the existing cry1I toxins, including cry1IE1.

TABLE 1
Amino Acid Identity of AXMI-003 with Exemplary Endotoxin Classes
Amino Acid Identity of Truncated
Endotoxin Toxins to AXMI-003 (SEQ ID NO: 2)
cry1Aa (SEQ ID NO: 5) 39%
cry1Ab (SEQ ID NO: 6) 39%
cry1Ac (SEQ ID NO: 7) 33%
cry1Ba (SEQ ID NO: 8) 59%
cry1Ca (SEQ ID NO: 9) 36%
cry1Fa (SEQ ID NO: 10) 37%
cry1Ia (SEQ ID NO: 11) 90%
cry2Ab (SEQ ID NO: 12) 12%
cry3Aa1 (SEQ ID NO: 13) 31%
cry7Aa (SEQ ID NO: 14) 36%
cry8Aa (SEQ ID NO: 15) 43%
cry10Aa (SEQ ID NO: 16) 20%

Example 7 Construction of pAX300 and pAX303

pAX300 is an expression vector derived from pMa1-2cx (New England Biolabs) by digesting pMA1-2cx with the restriction enzymes Nde I and EcoICR I, converting the overhangs to blunt ends by treatment with T4 polymerase and dNTPs, and religating the vector. pAX303 is a variant of pAX300 that confers kanamycin resistance rather than ampicillin resistance. pAX303 was generated from pAX300 by (1) digesting pAX300 with BspH I to remove beta-lactamase, converting the overhangs to blunt ends by treatment with T4 DNA polymerase and dNTPs, and removing the 5 ′ phosphates with calf intestinal phosphatase (New England Biolabs), (2) isolating the kanamycin resistance marker from pUC4K (Amersham Biosciences) by digestion with Pst I, converting the 5′ overhangs to blunt ends with T4 DNA polymerase and dNTPs, and gel-purifying the blunt-ended fragment, (3) ligating the fragment from pUC4K to the phosphatase-treated vector, and identifying kanamycin resistant clones. The resulting vector is pAX303.

Example 8 Expression of AXMI-003 Open Reading Frame in E. coli

AXMI-003 was engineered for expression in E. coli in the following manner. AXMI-003 was amplified by PCR, and cloned into pGEX-4T1 (Amersham Biosciences), which was digested with BamH I and Sal I to yield pAX413. AXMI-003 is organized such that the AXMI-003 open reading frame is translated as a fusion with the GST protein of the pGEX vector.

pAX413 was digested with BamH I and Sal I, and the restriction fragment containing the AXMI-003 purified by agarose gel electrophoresis. pAX303 was digested with BamH I and Sal I, and the AXMI-containing insert ligated to pAX303, to yield pAX900. The ligation was transformed into E.coli by electroporation.

Example 9 Bioassay of E. coli Construct Expressing AXMI-003 on European Corn Borer

E. coli cells containing pAX900 were grown in media, and AXMI-003 protein expression induced by addition of 1 mM IPTG to the growth media. Cells from AXMI-003 expressing cells or vector controls were pelleted by centrifugation, and lysed. Lysed cells were topically applied to artificial insect diet, and the diet allowed to dry. Once the diet was dry, neonate larvae of Ostrinia nubilulis (European corn borer) were placed in the wells, and incubated for 4 days. At the end of 4 days, the percent mortality was assessed.

TABLE 2
Percent Mortality of AXMI-003 on European Corn Borer
Construct Percent Mortality (4 days)
AXMI-003 Trial #1 100%
AXMI-003 Trial #2 100%
Vector Alone  0%

Example 10 Expression of AXMI-003 in Bacillus

The 2,160 base pair insecticidal AXMI-003 gene was digested from pAX900 using the restriction enzymes BamHI and SalI. The DNA fragment was gel purified from the vector backbone and cloned into the Bacillus expression vector pAX916 by methods well known in the art. The resulting clone, pAX964, expressed AXMI-003 protein when transformed into cells of a cry(−) Bacillus thuringiensis strain. The Bacillus strain containing pAX964 and expressing the 79 kD AXMI-003 insecticidal protein may be cultured on a variety of conventional growth media. A Bacillus strain containing pAX964 was grown in CYS media (10 g/l Bacto-casitone; 3 g/l yeast extract; 6 g/l KH2PO4; 14 g/l K2HPO4; 0.5 mM MgSO4; 0.05 mM MnCl2; 0.05 mM FeSO4), until sporulation was evident by microscopic examination. Soluble protein ampules were prepared, and AXMI-003 was tested for insecticidal activity in bioassay against several species.

Example 11 Bioassay of Bacillus-Expressed AXMI-003 on Insect Pests

Insecticidal activity of AXMI-003 was established utilizing accepted bioassay procedures using a sporulated Bacillus cell culture lysate expressing AXMI-003. The Bacillus culture was grown in 50 ml CYS media for 3 days at 30° C., 250 rpm until the cells were sporulated. Sporulation was confirmed by microscopic examination for the presence of spores. AXMI-003 protein samples were prepared by centrifugation of the sporulated cultures at 12,000×g for 10 min. The pellet was collected and resuspended in 50 ml 20 mM Tris-HCl, pH 8.0. The suspension was centrifuged again to collect the cell pellet. The pellet was resuspended in 50 ml of solubilization buffer (50 mM sodium carbonate, pH 10). The protein concentration of the sample was determined by electrophoresis on an SDS 4-20% gradient acrylamide gel along with a known quantity of bovine serum albumin (BSA). The concentration of AXMI-003 was determined to be 10 ng/ul.

AXMI-003 insecticidal activity was tested using a surface treatment bioassay with artificial diet (Multiple Species diet, Southland Products, Lake Village, Ark.) prepared as known in the art. Bioassays were carried out by applying the Bacillus culture expressing AXMI-003 to the diet surface and allowing the surface to air-dry. Standard bioassays utilized five to ten eggs or neonate larvae per well, depending on the species. LC50 bioassays utilized five neonate insect larvae per well. The eggs or larvae were applied using a fine tip paintbrush. Standard surface bioassays were carried out in 24-well tissue culture plates. 40 μl of each sample was applied to each well. Since each well has a surface area of 2 cm2 (plate source), a 40 μl cell lysate sample contained approximately 0.4 μg of AXMI-003. The final amount of AXMI-003 protein in each bioassay was approximately 0.2 μg/cm2. Bioassay trays were sealed with Breathe Easy Sealing Tape (Diversified Biotech, Boston Mass.). Control samples included media only samples, and wells that were not treated with samples. Bioassays were then held for five days in the dark at 25° C. and 65% relative humidity and results recorded.

TABLE 3
Insecticidal Activity of AXMI-003
Insect (Latin Name) Common Name Activity of AXMI-004
Ostrinia nubilalis European Corn Borer 100% mortality
Pectinophora gossypiella Pink Bollworm 100% mortality
Manduca sexta Tobacco Hornworm 100% mortality
Spodoptera exigua Beet Armyworm stunting
Spodoptera frugiperda Fall Armyworm stunting

AXMI-003 showed strong insecticidal activity (100% mortality) against Ostrinia nubilalis, Pectinophora gossypiella and Manduca sexta. AXMI-003 also severely stunted the growth of Spodoptera exigua and Spodoptera frugiperda at concentrations over 4.8 μg/cm2.

Example 12 Additional Assays for Pesticidal Activity

The ability of a pesticidal protein to act as a pesticide upon a pest is often assessed in a number of ways. One way well known in the art is to perform a feeding assay. In such a feeding assay, one exposes the pest to a sample containing either compounds to be tested, or control samples. Often this is performed by placing the material to be tested, or a suitable dilution of such material, onto a material that the pest will ingest, such as an artificial diet. The material to be tested may be composed of a liquid, solid, or slurry. The material to be tested may be placed upon the surface and then allowed to dry. Alternatively, the material to be tested may be mixed with a molten artificial diet, then dispensed into the assay chamber. The assay chamber may be, for example, a cup, a dish, or a well of a microtiter plate.

Assays for sucking pests (for example aphids) may involve separating the test material from the insect by a partition, ideally a portion that can be pierced by the sucking mouth parts of the sucking insect, to allow ingestion of the test material. Often the test material is mixed with a feeding stimulant, such as sucrose, to promote ingestion of the test compound.

Other types of assays can include microinjection of the test material into the mouth, or gut of the pest, as well as development of transgenic plants, followed by test of the ability of the pest to feed upon the transgenic plant. Plant testing may involve isolation of the plant parts normally consumed, for example, small cages attached to a leaf, or isolation of entire plants in cages containing insects.

Other methods and approaches to assay pests are known in the art, and can be found, for example in Robertson, J. L. & H. K. Preisler. 1992. Pesticide bioassays with arthropods. CRC, Boca Raton, Fla. Alternatively, assays are commonly described in the journals “Arthropod Management Tests” and “Journal of Economic Entomology” or by discussion with members of the Entomological Society of America (ESA).

All publications and patent applications mentioned in the specification are indicative of the level of skill of those skilled in the art to which this invention pertains. All publications and patent applications are herein incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each individual publication or patent application was specifically and individually indicated to be incorporated by reference.

Although the foregoing invention has been described in some detail by way of illustration and example for purposes of clarity of understanding, it will be obvious that certain changes and modifications may be practiced within the scope of the appended claims.

Claims (15)

1. An isolated nucleic acid molecule selected from the group consisting of:
a) a nucleic acid molecule comprising the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:1 or 3; and,
b) a nucleic acid molecule that encodes a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO:2 or 4.
2. The isolated nucleic acid molecule of claim 1, wherein said nucleotide sequence is a synthetic sequence that has been designed for expression in a plant.
3. A vector comprising the nucleic acid molecule of claim 1.
4. The vector of claim 3, further comprising a nucleic acid molecule encoding a heterologous polypeptide.
5. A host cell that contains the vector of claim 3.
6. The host cell of claim 5 that is a bacterial host cell.
7. The host cell of claim 5 that is a plant cell.
8. A transgenic plant comprising the host cell of claim 7.
9. The transgenic plant of claim 8, wherein said plant is selected from the group consisting of maize, sorghum, wheat, sunflower, tomato, crucifers, peppers, potato, cotton, rice, soybean, cabbage sugarbeet, sugarcane, tobacco, barley, and oilseed rape.
10. A transformed seed comprising the nucleic acid molecule of claim 1.
11. A method for producing a polypeptide with pesticidal activity, comprising culturing the host cell of claim 5 under conditions in which the nucleic acid molecule encoding the polypeptide is expressed.
12. A plant having stably incorporated into its genome a DNA construct comprising a nucleotide sequence that encodes a protein having pesticidal activity, wherein said nucleotide sequence is selected from the group consisting of:
a) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:1 or 3; and,
b) a nucleotide sequence encoding a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO:2 or 4;
wherein said nucleotide sequence is operably linked to a promoter that drives expression of a coding sequence in a plant cell.
13. A plant cell having stably incorporated into its genome a DNA construct comprising a nucleotide sequence that encodes a protein having pesticidal activity, wherein said nucleotide sequence is selected from the group consisting of:
a) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:1 or 3; and,
b) a nucleotide sequence encoding a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO:2 or 4;
wherein said nucleotide sequence is operably linked to a promoter that drives expression of a coding sequence in a plant cell.
14. A method for expressing a nucleotide sequence in a plant, said method comprising introducing into a plant cell an expression cassette, said expression cassette comprising a promoter and operably linked to said promoter a heterologous nucleotide sequence of interest, wherein said nucleotide sequence of interest comprises a nucleotide sequence selected from the group consisting of:
a) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:1 or 3; and,
b) a nucleotide sequence encoding a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO:2 or 4; and,
regenerating a transformed plant from said plant cell, wherein said plant has stably incorporated into its genome said expression cassette.
15. A method for expressing a nucleotide sequence in a plant cell, said method comprising introducing into a plant cell an expression cassette comprising a promoter operably linked to a heterologous nucleotide sequence of interest, wherein said nucleotide sequence of interest comprises a nucleotide sequence selected from the group consisting of:
a) the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:1 or 3; and,
b) a nucleotide sequence encoding a polypeptide comprising the amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO:2 or 4.
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